Exploring models for youth engagement in community health planning: The Youth-led Community Health Learning Initiative

Online Publication Date:
February 4, 2022
Publication Status:
Published Article MUSE Link:
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**Published in Progress in Community Health Partnerships (PCHP) volume 16.2. All rights reserved.**

Background. Community health assessment and improvement planning processes (CHA/CHIP) are often challenged with developing health actions that reach across a large community, city or county and that incorporate locally informed issues and place-specific strategies. In co-learning about approaches for enhancing CHA/CHIP processes through youth stakeholder input, a partnership of academic and community leaders came together to create The Youth-Led Community Health Learning Initiative (YLCHLI), a one-year pilot initiative aimed at identifying health needs and assets in partnership with youth leaders and two central Texas communities.
Objective. To describe our approach, key findings, and lessons learned in implementing the YLCHLI in two different organizational settings: a high school-based setting and a community-based organization setting.
Methods. Guided by a community advisory board and the Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships framework, the YLCHLI incorporated a mixed methods design consisting of quantitative community health indicator analysis for topics identified in the Austin/Travis County CHA followed by a youth-led qualitative assessment of selected health issues via methods that included participatory mapping, data walks, and photovoice.
Results: Youth-informed findings provided rich insights and context for understanding disparities in selected health issues, including identification of social and environmental barriers to physical activity, healthy eating, health services, and mental health, and locally-informed recommendations for community health improvement.
Conclusion. High school health science tracks and community-based organizations represent promising settings for fostering community partnerships and youth engagement in identifying local health needs and opportunities that can enhance community health improvement planning and contribute to positive youth development.